When our uncle Pfc Lester LaVerne Zornes wrote this letter home to Spokane, Washington, he had just wrapped up his second day of Morse Code class as part of his training to become a Radio Operator. The school was running three shifts of classes, with his class starting at 2:00 a.m. He would go on to send, receive, and transcribe an astonishing 22 words per minute, all in the form of short taps (dots) and longer taps (dashes), or as he called them, “dis” and “dahs” on a telegraph key. (He would go on to serve on board a C-47 with the 306th Troop Carrier Squadron.)
I can imagine Grandma trying to keep a straight face while reading this whimsical letter out loud to Grandpa and their three kids, including my mom, who had turned 11 years old just a few days earlier.
You try reading it out loud — fast!
[Envelope postmarked July 5, 1943; 1:30 P.M.; Sioux Falls, S. Dak]
P.f.c. L.L. Zornes
804 TSS, Barracks 1212
Army Technical School
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Mrs. L.O. Zornes
Thurs, July 5 [Morse code marks over or under each character of date]
Dear Mom, Dad, and kids,
Some di-dah people say di-dah that studying di-dah Morse Code will di-dah make a guy di-dah “code-di-dah-dah-di-crazy” di-di-dah. But they are di-dah-dah mistaken. I’ve been going dah-di-dah to school for two whole dah-dah-di days studying di-di-dah code, and it hasn’t dah-di affected me a bit di-di yet.
Been going to school two days now and know a few letters in code. Believe me, it’s mighty tough, but I think it is going to be fun after I learn the code alphabet. We are also taking ‘theory’ of electricity and of radio mechanics. Our time is equally divided between “Code” and “Theory”. So we don’t get too tired of either. It seems like “good old school days” again, (all except the two hours of calethsentics and games). Code is kinda fun. There are about 150 soldiers in Code Class. We receive our instructions and teachings over ear phones. We get most of our training from phonograph records hooked up to the ear phone system. Yes, it’s going to be a mighty rough course, but I’m going to do my darnedest to make good.
How is the weather back in a good country? It’s colder than heck here now. Rather have it cold than hot though, by golly. How’s our garden? We have darned good food here, but I’d sure like to go into our garden and make me out a good meal on vegetables again. (Talking of eating, I sure can’t get used to eating supper at noon. Silly, ain’t it?) Has it ever stopped raining? I think we are getting your rain here, now. It hasn’t rained very much, but it’s always cloudy and trying it’s best to.
Well, shucks, there just ain’t no news here, so forgive me for writing such a short letter, but I just wanted to let you know I started school okay, and think I’m going to like it. (We have a few girl techettes, too! No wonder I’m thinkin’ I’ll like it”. Almost all instructors are civilians.)
Better close for now, as it’s almost bed time (4:00) and I gotta go take a shower and clean up and do a lot of ‘home work’, studying di-di-dahs, and reading about electricity (D.C. current) and so on.
Remember, I once said I’d never go to school again? Darned liar, wasn’t I? I’ll “half” addmit that I like school for a change, though.
Still looking for a letter or two from Spokane (hint-hint) so write soon please.
Bye for now.
Your di-di-dah son
as ever yours
P.f.c. di-dah-dah Les